March 14, 2020 / 11:51 AM / 20 days ago

Belgium's fries spared from national coronavirus lockdown

A man eats french fries, following an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brussels, Belgium, 14 March 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s national dish, fried potato sticks that many English speakers refer to as “French fries”, has escaped the country’s near lockdown over coronavirus, with vendors allowed to stay open while all cafes and restaurants have been forced to close.

The government ordered schools, bars, gyms and all sporting and cultural activities to close for three weeks from Saturday and curbed shop opening times to limit the spread of the disease.

But - as many Belgians noticed - the places selling fries have been spared, as long as you eat them elsewhere.

Fries are typically sold in paper cones from roadside shacks or trailers. There are some 5,000 of them in Belgium, making them some 10 times more common per capita than McDonald’s restaurants in the United States.

Belgium has sought to have Belgian potato fries and the culture around them recognized as global heritage alongside its beer-making tradition.

Many Belgians say the country invented fries and that U.S. troops stationed in the French-speaking part of Belgium during World War One mistakenly called them “French”.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Frances Kerry

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